Death Penalty Discussion
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A bloodthirsty government with the blessing of an unjust judicial system is trying to murder me.

Derrick T. Smith, Florida DR
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Thug of the Month at OFF2DR
Here you will find a new inmate profiled each month. The public needs to be reminded why we have capital punishment in this country.
August 2008 Thug of the Month
Suzanne Basso Texas Death Row

Suzanne Margaret Basso

Texas Death Row

TDCJ # 999329

Victim: Louis "Buddy" Musso

In July of 1997, 59-year-old Louis "Buddy" Musso, the victim in this case, first met either Suzanne Basso or her son, James "J.D." O'Malley, at a church carnival in New Jersey. Musso, though mentally retarded, lived independently, held a job at a local grocery store, and handled his own financial affairs.

In June of 1998, Musso left New Jersey to live with Basso in Jacinto City, Texas. Shortly after Musso moved in with the Basso, Al Becker, Musso's Social Security representative payee and friend of twenty years, began having difficulty contacting Musso. Becker had numerous telephone conversations with Basso, but Basso eventually refused to allow him to communicate directly with Musso. Concerned about Musso's welfare, Becker sought assistance from various Texas state agencies, but was not able to gain any further information about Musso's situation.

In July of 1998, Basso unsuccessfully attempted to designate herself as Musso's representative payee of his Social Security benefits. On an application for a life insurance policy on Musso, Basso was named beneficiary, and she had described herself as Musso's "wife to be." After Musso's death, police found certificates of insurance for policies in Musso's name, including one that provided $65,000 in the event of Musso's death from violent crime. They also discovered a document entitled Musso's "Last Will and Testament," which purported to leave Musso's entire estate to Basso while "no one else [was] to get a cent."

In the days leading up to his death, Musso suffered tremendous abuse at the hands of Basso and her five co-defendants. Basso would take Musso to the apartment of co-defendants Bernice Ahrens, Craig and Hope Ahrens (Bernice's son and daughter), and Terence Singleton (Hope's fiancé), where Musso was forced to remain seated or in a kneeling position on a plastic mat in the hallway for hours. Whenever Musso attempted to get off the mat, O'Malley would beat or kick him. O'Malley, Singleton, Bernice, and Craig beat Musso, and O'Malley, while wearing combat boots, kicked him repeatedly. Basso beat Musso with a baseball bat on the buttocks, back, and groin area, and both she and Hope struck him with a belt and buckle. After hearing that Musso had been "misbehaving" while she was away from the apartment, Basso, who weighed over 300 pounds, repeatedly jumped on top of Musso while he was on his hands and knees, causing him to fall flat on the ground. At one point, Musso requested that someone there call an ambulance. Even though Hope, as she later admitted, recognized the extent of Musso's injuries, he received no medical attention. Someone (the evidence suggests either O'Malley or Singleton and Craig) bathed Musso in a solution of bleach and Pine-Sol cleaning fluid, using a wire brush on his body. Apparently, his killers were giving Musso this kind of "bath" when he died.

On the morning of August 28, 1999, Musso's body was found dumped near a roadway in Galena Park. Because Musso's clothes lacked any blood stains, and his only shoe was on the wrong foot, investigators believed that his body had been dressed after he died. The medical examiner reported an extraordinary number of injuries to Musso's body and was unable to count the "hundreds" of bruises that covered Musso from head to toe. The palms of Musso's hands and the soles of his feet were bruised, while his back and buttocks showed numerous lash marks indicative of his having been whipped. Musso's severely blackened eyes resulted from a "hinge fracture" to his skull, which probably was caused by a blow to the back of the head. He had sustained broken bones in his nose, ribs, and throat. Marks on his back appeared to be cigarette burns, but may have been caused by a hot poker, and the medical examiner noted areas of skin abrasion possibly attributable to contact with a cleaning solution or scrub brush. The cause of death was believed to have been a skull fracture from an unknown object, which left a large, X-shaped laceration in Musso's scalp.

On the evening before Musso's body was discovered, Basso began what evolved into a lengthy attempt to establish that Musso had run away. She made several phone calls to people, including Becker, a niece of Musso's, and the local police, expressing concern about Musso's whereabouts. Basso claimed that Musso probably had run away with a "little Mexican lady" that he had met at a laundromat and said that she was "getting kind of worried" about him. In a written statement to police, Basso later confessed to having driven Bernice Ahrens's car, with Musso's body in the trunk, to the site where O'Malley, Singleton, and Craig Ahrens dumped the body. She also admitted driving the car to the dumpster where the others disposed of additional incriminating evidence, including bloody clothes and rubber gloves, which the police had found as a result of O'Malley's confession.

Discussion here.......
July 2008 Thug of the Month

 

Faryion Wardrip

Texas Death Row

TDCJ # 999331

 

Prior Prison Record :
TDCJ-ID #439572 on a 35-year sentence from Wichita County for 1 count of murder, involves the subject beating and suffocating a 21-year old female. 12/11/97 release on mandatory supervision.

 

Summary of incident :
On 12/21/1984, at the home of a white female, Wardrip committed Burglary of Habitation and Murder. Wardrip used a knife to stab the victim to death after gaining entry. The subject admits that on that evening he had been "screaming at the stars" while walking sleeplessly in a residential area in Wichita Falls, Texas. The victim came outside to observe the commotion, which alerted the subject to her presence. Wardrip charged at the victim, who closed the door, however, Wardrip broke the door down. Once inside, he killed the victim for no apparent reason (other than a fit of rage). Wardrip pleaded guilty after DNA evidence linked him to the murder of this victim as well as three other women..

 

Terry Lee Sims a student at Mid-Western State University in Wichita Falls, Texas while working at Bethania Regional as a EKG Technician, on December 21, 1984, she was at home alone when she heared a man outside "Screaming at the Sky" (as the killer would later confess to his actions). When Faryion Edward Wardrip saw her, he charged her. Sims locked the door, but he broke it down, entering the house and stabbed her to death for no apparent reason. In 1985, 3 more girls were found dead in Texas. In 1986, Faryion Wardrip was sentenced to 35 years for the death of friend, Tina Kimbrew. He would serve 11 years, and was paroled in 1997. After Wardrip was released, he re-married and became a Sunday school teacher. In 1999, a young investigator, John Little tied the crimes of a serial killer together, these crimes where though to be unrelated. Wardrip was charged with 4 counts of murder, and was sentenced to the Texas Death Row. Two works, “Body Hunter” by Patricia Springer and "Scream at the Sky: Five Texas Murders and One Man's Crusade for Justice" By Carlton Stowers. These cases have also been featured on the television programs “Cold Case Files” and “Forensic Files”. (bio by: Frank W Nichols).

 

FROM COURT DOCUMENTS:

Appellant pleaded guilty to the capital murder of Terry Sims. The State presented evidence of the offense during the punishment phase of the trial. Leza Boone, Sims’ friend and co-worker, testified that she and Sims finished working their shifts at Bethania Hospital in Wichita Falls at approximately 11:15 p.m. on the night of December 20, 1984. They planned to exchange Christmas gifts at the home of a friend after work and Sims was to stay at Boone’s residence that night to help her study for her final exam the following day. Boone was unexpectedly called to return to the hospital to work the next shift, so she drove Sims to Boone’s residence after the Christmas gift exchange. She dropped Sims off at approximately 12:30 a.m. on December 21, 1984.

Boone finished her shift at the hospital at approximately 7:15 a.m. and returned to her residence. Sims did not answer the door, so Boone obtained a key from her landlord who lived two doors down. Boone opened the door and noticed that the living room was in disarray. Sims did not respond when Boone yelled her name, so Boone ran back to her landlord’s residence and told him that something was wrong. The landlord then entered Boone’s residence and discovered Sims’ dead body.

Sims was found lying naked on her left side in a pool of blood on the bathroom floor. Her hands were bound tightly behind her back with part of an extension cord that was tied in four knots. Her body was covered in blood and there was blood splattered on the bathroom walls and floor. The living room and front bedroom were in disarray. There were blood stains on the bed sheets and the floor in the front bedroom. Sims’ bloodstained clothes were on the floor in the living room and front bedroom.

Dr. Allen Stilwell, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on Sims’ body, testified that she had eight stab wounds on the front of her chest, three stab wounds on the right side of her back, one stab wound on her left upper arm, and defensive cuts on her hands and fingers. Stilwell believed that Sims sustained most of these stab wounds after her assailant tied her hands behind her back. Sims also had bruises on the bridge of her nose, her lips, and above the left side of her cheek and eye. Stilwell testified that these bruises were consistent with Sims being struck by a fist or by her falling and banging her head on the floor. He further testified that Sims had additional “tease wounds” which were inflicted by her assailant “to get her attention.”4 He testified that at least one of Sims’ stab wounds caused hemorrhaging when it punctured a major artery and that other stab wounds caused her lungs to collapse which prevented her from breathing. He determined that Sims probably died from these injuries within two to four minutes after they were inflicted.

The forensic test results showed the presence of sperm on the oral and vaginal swabs taken from Sims’s body. The DNA testing of appellant’s blood and saliva samples revealed that appellant was the only individual who could have contributed the sperm found on Sims’ oral swab.5 In addition, appellant’s fingerprints matched a bloody fingerprint found on Sims’ tennis shoe.

Appellant gave a statement after his arrest. In his statement, he claimed that he was under the influence of “heavy drugs” on the night he murdered Sims. He stated that he was out walking when he saw Sims. He forced his way into the residence and “just ransacked her, just slung her all over the house in a violent rage.” He remembered “stripping her down out of anger,” tying her hands behind her back, and stabbing her with a knife, but he did not recall having sex with her. He could not remember if he brought the knife with him or what he did with the knife after he committed the murder. Appellant stated that he was “mad at the world” and that his drinking and drug abuse caused him to be paranoid and to have violent outbursts. He had the urge to “lash out” at two or three people that evening, but he acted on his urge when he encountered Sims.

VICTIMS:

Terry Sims, Tina Kimbrew, Toni Gibbs, Ellen Blau, Debra Taylor

 

NEWS ARTICLE:

Bryce Wardrip wants to watch his big brother die.

Serial killer Faryion Edward Wardrip initiated a federal appeals process last week to avoid the death chamber, but Bryce Wardrip said his brother should "quit wasting taxpayers' money."

"Case closed. Take him down to Huntsville, put a needle in his arm and execute him," he said in a story in the Wichita Falls Times Record News on Thursday. "The way I look at it, (Wardrip's ashes) need to be put in a shoe box and thrown out in a garbage pit."

Faryion Wardrip was sentenced to death in November 1999 after he pleaded guilty to the 1984 murder of Terry Sims, a Midwestern State University student.

He had been arrested in early 1999 in Olney, where he lived while out on parole after serving 11 years in prison for the 1986 murder of Wichita Falls resident Tina Kimbrew.

In Olney, 90 miles south of Wichita Falls, Faryion Wardrip was known as a diligent worker and a Sunday school teacher. He told fellow parishioners that he'd finished serving a manslaughter sentence for drunken driving and killing his girlfriend.

But after his arrest, Wardrip confessed to the January 1985 slaying of nurse Toni Gibbs, the September 1985 homicide of MSU student Ellen Blau and the March 1985 killing of Fort Worth homemaker Debra Taylor.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed his capital murder conviction Oct. 3.

Tom Allensworth, the attorney who handled Wardrip's state appeals, has said he believes Wardrip is pursuing every appeal available.

Execution for Wardrip probably looms at least two years away because of tight court scheduling, Wichita County assistant District Attorney John Brasher said Wednesday.

Bryce Wardrip initially defended his brother — until Faryion Wardrip confessed to some of the killings over the phone. Bryce Wardrip later testified against his brother.

Bryce Wardrip said hatred consumed him for a time. He stayed awake at night actually imagining tortures for his brother because execution was "getting off easy" for the crimes.

Robert Kimbrew, the father of one of Wardrip's victims, helped Bryce Wardrip overcome some of his anger.

"If he's for some reason not alive, I will sit in Robert Kimbrew's spot (at the execution) to make sure justice is done," Bryce Wardrip said. "I'm watching a murderer being put to death, not my brother."


source: http://www.lubbockonline.com/stories/122201/sta_1222010125.shtml

 

DISCUSSION HERE.....
 

June 2007 Thug of the Month
Cathy Lynn Henderson had an execution date scheduled for June 13, 2007. Yet again Henderson dodged the executioner with her on-going lies and stall tactics. Cathy Henderson continues to be a thug even from Death Row. She continues to torment the family of Brandon Baugh. She has failed to give a factual account of what transpired the day she took the life of this innocent young child. Cathy Henderson shows NO remorse for her crimes.
--------------------------------------------------

Execution of


Cathy

Henderson


Scheduled for:


June 13, 2007


6:00pm


EXECUTION

STAYED


 

On Texas Death Row: Cathy Henderson, Texas Department of Criminal Justice Number 999148, was received at TDCJ on June 1, 1995. After three months of babysitting Brandon and Megan Baugh, Henderson abducted, murdered, and buried 3-month old Brandon, later telling police that the baby's death was an accident. With her latest appeal denied in August 2006, an execution date has been set. -- April 18, 2007.

 

About Cathy Henderson: Cathy Lynn Henderson had been babysitting the Baugh children for about 3 months before the January 21, 1994 abduction and murder. Originally from Missouri, Henderson had been living in northeast Travis County and was the babysitter for Megan and Brandon Baugh in 1993/94. Upon the disappearance of Henderson and baby Brandon, a nationwide search ensued. Henderson was found in Missouri.

 

Henderson maintains that Brandon's injuries were sustained in an accidental fall and that in a panic she buried his body on her way out of town. She had also claimed at different points that she had stolen the baby to sell for money. Maps she drew to show where she had buried Brandon back in Texas were a point of contention prior to her conviction and in later appeals (denied).

 

Facts of the case: 

  • Baby Brandon's head was shattered. When a child is born, their skulls are still soft. It's a trait that aids in the childbirth and there is a soft spot on the skull that eventually closes over. Because the bone has a rubbery texture to it, it's almost impossible to crack. The cracks in his skull were so extensive that they almost encircles the skull and there was about a 2 inch circular piece at the back that had been pushed in with radiating lines to about a 4 inch diameter and the bone in between the inner and outer cirle had been fragmented.  The coroner stated that the amount of force to cause that much damage would be the equivalent of being hit with a baseball bat.  The only thing he could theorize that could cause that much damage is that she grabbed him by the ankles, swung him like a hammer and slammed his head into a hard object like a concrete floor....repeatedly.
     

  • Cathy's daughter Melissa testified AGAINST her mother.  Cathy was abusive to her and after they divorced, Melissa had her parental rights terminated.  Cathy was so furious at her daughter that she swore that one day when Melissa had a child she would come and take it from her so she would know the pain of losing a child.  It was her own child's testimony and fear that the jury heard when they decided that she would be a continuing threat to society.  They coupled that in with one of Cathy's in-laws testifying that she had come to his house drunk one evening and attacked him with a knife. (it's in the court transcripts if you want to look it up)
     

About Brandon Baugh: The body of 3-month old Brandon Baugh was found in a box buried in a shallow grave outside Temple, Texas on Feb. 8, 1994. He had died days earlier on January 21. An autopsy revealed he died from head injuries that, according to the medical examiner, were not consistent with a fall from the babysitter's arms as Cathy Henderson had claimed. Brandon's parents Mom Melissa, Dad Eryn, his Aunt Julie and the rest of their family have been waiting 13 years for Justice for Brandon.

 

 

 

Rest in Peace Sweet Baby.

 

 

 

Participate in discussion about this case here:

Scheduled Executions

 

 

Notes: Brandon's Father Eryn contributed to the facts shown here.
March 2007 Thug of the Month

March 2007

Thug of the Month

 

Christa Pike

Tennessee Death Row


Christa Gail Pike was convicted in 1996 for the Jan. 12, 1995, torture slaying of 19-year-old Colleen Slemmer, who was slashed and beaten by Pike and Pike's boyfriend, Tadaryl Shipp, for 30 minutes to an hour before Pike finally killed her by smashing Slemmer's skull with a chunk of asphalt.

 

In letters literally splattered with blood, a Tennessee death row inmate reveals her passion for brutal pain to trusted "soul mate" and fellow convicted killer John Lee Fryman. But Fryman, now imprisoned at the Warren Correctional Institute near Lebanon after Lucasville inmates beat him almost to death for being a snitch, mailed the letters to prosecutors to help them put Christa Pike to death. Pike, 24, convicted in the torture slaying of 19-year-old Colleen Slemmer, is in the final round of the state's death penalty appeals process. Ms. Slemmer was slashed, beaten and stabbed for at least 30 minutes by Pike and Tadaryl Shipp, who even carved a pentagram into Ms. Slemmer's chest while she was still alive. Then Pike bashed her head with a chunk of asphalt, reached inside and took part of the skull as a souvenir.

 

All three were students at the now-closed Job Corps Center in Knoxville. Just after Christmas, Fryman mailed Knox County Assistant District Attorney Bill Crabtree eight letters of love and violence written between Sept. 11 and Oct. 19, 2000, by Pike, who is held at the Tennessee Prison for Women in Nashville, Tenn. The contents of the Sept. 11 letter indicate the two had been writing to each other for some time. The eight letters were filed in Knox County court this week as exhibits in Pike's latest appeal of her 1996 death sentence. "Figure all these things are of more value to you than to me," Fryman wrote to Crabtree. "You see Mr. Prosecutor dude I'm down (in prison) for Satanic Murder. They say that I practice magic still." He goes on to write, "Christa loves me - go figure eh?... Foolish girl that she is." Fryman concludes: "You have a nice day Mr. Crabtree - or whoever has her case."

 

In the letters Pike writes how much she likes blood. "It's quite beautiful before it turns brown," she writes in an Oct. 6 letter sprinkled with what she indicates is her blood. She also writes about how much she likes to inflict pain. "I love the feel of life - then lack thereof in my hands," she writes Fryman. "And just knowing the pain I can cause after accepting so much - and they will all know it's me." In another she notes, "I like to see blood and brains - fatty tissues and wide open ripped flesh." She also writes, "I'm unlike all the others, Johnny," and calls Fryman her soul mate and frequently says she loves him and is his "princess." She also discusses the way her face masks what's inside her. "See, I have an innocent baby face, the face of an angel," she writes. "It disguises me to a lot of people."

 

Fryman, 38, is serving a life sentence in Ohio for the 1987 murder of 21-year-old Monica Lemen, whom he lured to his Fairfield trailer and shot in the back of the head in his "sorcery room." The room featured black-painted walls, a gravestone altar, animal jawbones, satanic figurines and a plastic ram's head. Fryman sawed off Ms. Lemen's legs and left them behind an Indiana church. In 1993, Fryman was nearly killed by other inmates for being a snitch during a riot at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville that left one guard and nine inmates dead.
 

 

November Thug of the Month

Cleve Foster

Awaiting execution by lethal injection on Texas Death Row

The Offender:

Cleve Foster

DOB: 10/24/1963

Arrived on death row: 3/1/2004

 

 

 

The Crime:

 

On 2/14/2002, in Tarrant County, Texas, Foster and co-defendant Ward sexually assaulted and shot a 28 year old black female, resulting in her death.  Foster and Ward then moved the body of the victim to a ditch where it was discovered by workers who were laying pipe.

 

TDCJ Webpage: http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/stat/fostercleve.htm

 

Co-defendant: Shelton Aaron Ward

 


From the News:

TEXAS:
 

Convicted killer linked to another woman's death
 

Cleve Foster, the former Army recruiter convicted Friday of capital murder
in the slaying of Nyanuer "Mary" Pal, was convicted in 1984 of aggravated
robbery and is linked to the killing of another woman, law enforcement
officials testified Monday as the penalty phase of Foster's trial began.
 

Prosecutors are asking jurors to recommend a death sentence for Foster,
40, whom they found guilty of participation in the kidnap-rape-killing of
Pal on Valentine's Day 2002.
 

Defense witnesses characterized him as a "giving man" and a "good son."
Foster has been married and divorced twice, according to public records
and court testimony, and has a 15-year-old son. Foster's first wife, Patty
Rios, attended the proceedings Monday.
 

The defense will call more witnesses today, and then jurors in state
District Judge Sharen Wilson's court are expected to begin deliberating
Foster's sentence. He could get life in prison.
 

Prosecutors Ben Leonard and Lloyd Whelchel called several witnesses to
implicate Foster in the December 2001 rape-slaying of Rachel Urnosky in
Fort Worth. Patrol officers summoned by the former Texas Tech student's
co-workers found her on a bed in her southwest Fort Worth apartment after
she didn't show up for work.
 

In a statement given a month after the Pal slaying, Foster told homicide
Detective John McCaskill that Urnosky invited him and his co-defendant,
Sheldon Ward, into her apartment and that any sexual contact had been
consensual.
 

Urnosky's sister, Kelly, testified Monday that Urnosky was engaged to be
married and did not know Ward or Foster. Ballistics experts said the
bullet used to kill Urnosky came from the same gun used to kill Pal.
 

Ward, the gun's registered owner, was convicted in May in Pal's case and
sentenced to die.
 

Foster, who joined the Army Reserve in 1980, was stationed for some of
that time at Fort Hood. In nearby Harker Heights in 1984, Foster was
convicted of aggravated robbery after he held a knife to a man's neck
while another man demanded money, testified Doug Mennor, a former Harker
Heights police detective. Foster was sentenced to 10 years on probation.
 

Defense attorneys Rex Barnett and John Harding tried to show that Ward
acted alone in the Pal and Urnosky cases. And they called witnesses to
testify about Foster's character.
 

Foster's father, Cleve Foster Sr., said he raised his son in church "and
tried to teach him in the way he should go." Donna Fagen, who works in the
aviation industry, said that Foster helped her out around the house after
she had neck surgery and that he got her son into the military.
 

"He was a blessing to me and my son," Fagen said. "He was always very
respectful of me."
 

Paul Foster, 20, who is not related to Cleve Foster, said the former Army
recruiter was the main reason he joined the Army. Paul Foster, who
testified Monday that he was wounded twice last year in the war in Iraq,
said he looked up to Cleve Foster.
 

"I've never heard any bad words about him," Paul Foster said.
 

(source : Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
 


From the internet:

Cleve Foster has a website up: http://www.innocentondeathrow.com

Apparently like many others he claims to be innocent of the crime.

In his words:

"I'M INNOCENT and on Death Row, and I need your help. "21 YEAR VET".

April 2006 Thug of the Month


Pedro Solis Sosa - Polunsky Unit Death Row - Texas

Arrived on death row: January 7, 1985 - 21 yrs on the row!

Naptime for Mr. Sosa is scheduled for April 25, 2006


 

  Convicted in the November 1983 shooting death of 55 yr old Ollie F. Childress, Jr., a Wilson county Deputy Sheriff. Sosa and his nephew Leroy V. Sosa abducted Officer Childress on Texas Highway 16 and drove his patrol car, with the officer in the truck, to the LaVernia State Bank, which they robbed of $51,038. The robbers then drove to a point on Steinben Road where Officer Childress was shot once in the neck with his own .44-caliber revolver while handcuffed in the trunk. Sosa and his nephew then fled in their own vehicle, but returned a short time later because they had forgotten to wipe the patrol car clean of their fingerprints. Finding Officer Childress still alive Sosa reportedly shot him a second time in the neck. Leroy Sosa told police his uncle shot the officer because Childress had seen his face. The two robbers drove to San Antonio after throwing the officers gun and a shotgun they used in the bank robbery in a creek. Pedro Sosa was arrested after his car was stopped on I-35 on February 4, 1984.
October 2006 Thug of the Month
Robert Gene Will, II

 

 

picture of offender

COP KILLER - ON TEXAS DEATH ROW

On 12/04/2000 in Houston, Will, who was attempting to burglarize a vehicle, was being chased by a white male police officer.  Once the officer reached Will and attempted to apply restraints to him, Will shot the officer seven times in the head, resulting in the officer's death.

 

This creepy cop killer claims "After a ridiculously unfair trial I was sentenced to death by a Harris County (Houston) judge and sent to death row. I am completely innocent and I am sure anyone who takes the time to look into my case will come to that same conclusion. " He has a website created by some of his groupie penpal friends that can be viewed here: http://www.robertwill.co.nr/      I have to warn you though, thugs like this one will say anything to have you sympathize with them. Don't fall into their trap. This man murdered a Police Officer. He deserves nothing short of death by lethal injection!
 

March 2006 Thug of the Month

Robert Preston - Union CI - Florida

on death row since 1981 - far too long!

Offense Date Offense Sentence Date County Case No. Prison Sentence Length
01/05/1978 SHOOT/THROW MISSILE-BLDG/VEH. 04/01/1980 SEMINOLE 7800038 6Y 0M 0D
01/09/1978 1ST DG MUR/PREMED. OR ATT. 11/06/1981 SEMINOLE 7800041 DEATH SENTENCE
01/09/1978 ROBB. NO GUN/DDLY.WPN 11/06/1981 SEMINOLE 7800041 15Y 0M 0D
01/09/1978 KIDNAP,ASSAULT OR TERRORIZE 11/06/1981 SEMINOLE 7800041 SENTENCED TO LIFE

Florida death-row inmate Robert Preston has escaped 4 execution dates
since his 1981 1st-degree murder conviction.
 

Each time, Preston's attorneys won appeals that earned him new sentencing
hearings and a reprieve from Florida's electric chair. But at each new
hearing, jurors came back with the same recommendation -- death.
 

Now Preston hopes DNA tests refuting a key piece of evidence will get him
a new trial that could set him free.
 

Preston, 46, was sentenced to death for the 1978 murder of
convenience-store clerk Earline Walker. Her mutilated body was found in a
vacant Forest City field near Preston's home. She had been stabbed
repeatedly and her throat slashed.
 

At his trial, Preston used a temporary-insanity defense, saying he was
high on marijuana, alcohol and PCP. He maintains he has no recollection of
events of that night.
 

Part of the evidence used to convict Preston were pubic hairs found on his
belt buckle and jacket. A Florida Department of Law Enforcement hair
expert testified at Preston's original trial that microscopic analysis
found that the hair appeared to match samples from Walker.
 

But DNA tests performed last year on the hair found it was not the
victim's, said Robert Strain, Preston's attorney.
 

The hair was one issue discussed at an evidentiary hearing Wednesday
before Seminole Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr.
 

At the hearing, Preston's first attorney, Assistant Public Defender Arthur
"Sonny" Kutsche, was pressed by Strain about why he didn't challenge the
hair evidence or the FDLE expert's credentials.
 

The testimony from the expert was not that strong, Kutsche said, so the
defense focused its efforts on other aspects of the case.
 

"The best she could say was that it could have been from the victim or
from 10,000 other people in the Orlando metropolitan area," he said.
 

Strain also raised questions about why Preston's defense team failed to
test Preston's hair samples and clothing to confirm his PCP use.
 

Despite the new DNA evidence and questions about the effectiveness of
Preston's previous legal representation, Assistant State Attorney Chris
White said he thinks the conviction and death sentence will hold up.
 

Preston's fingerprints were found on the victim's car, food stamps taken
from the convenience store matched food stamps found in Preston's room,
and witnesses testified that Preston had gone out on the night of the
murder and returned with money. Another witness testified that she saw
Preston near the crime scene that night.
 

"The DNA hair evidence doesn't prove his innocence," White said. "It
happens to prove that it didn't come from the victim."
 

A final ruling on whether Preston will get a new trial or new sentencing
hearing remains months away.
 

(source: Orlando Sentinel)
 

 

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